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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

David Byrne: “The Internet will suck all creative content out of the world”

Maybe someone will listen cuz it’s David Byrne talking…? From the Guardian:

David Byrne: ‘The internet will suck all creative content out of the world’

The boom in digital streaming may generate profits for record labels and free content for consumers, but it spells disaster for today’s artists across the creative industries

I… don’t understand the claim of discovery that Spotify makes; the actual moment of discovery in most cases happens at the moment when someone else tells you about an artist or you read about them – not when you’re on the streaming service listening to what you have read about (though Spotify does indeed have a “discovery” page that, like Pandora’s algorithm, suggests artists you might like). There is also, I’m told, a way to see what your “friends” have on their playlists, though I’d be curious to know whether a significant number of people find new music in this way. I’d be even more curious if the folks who “discover” music on these services then go on to purchase it. Why would you click and go elsewhere and pay when the free version is sitting right in front of you? Am I crazy?

How do you make the transition from “I’ll give away anything to get noticed” to “Sorry, now you have to pay for my music”?…

Are these services evil? Are they simply a legalised version of file-sharing sites such as Napster and Pirate Bay – with the difference being that with streaming services the big labels now get hefty advances? The debate as to whether those pirate sites cannibalise possible sales goes on. Some say freeloaders wouldn’t have paid for music anyway, so there’s no real loss; others say freeloaders are mainly super-fans who end up paying artists in other ways, buying concert tickets and T-shirts, for example. Though, as author Chris Ruen points out in his book Freeloading, if you yourself didn’t pay for any of the music by your favourite bands, then don’t be surprised if they eventually call it quits for lack of funds.

The larger question is that if free or cheap streaming becomes the way we consume all (recorded) music and indeed a huge percentage of other creative content – TV, movies, games, art, porn – then perhaps we might stop for a moment and consider the effect these services and this technology will have, before “selling off” all our cultural assets the way the big record companies did. If, for instance, the future of the movie business comes to rely on the income from Netflix’s $8-a-month-streaming-service as a way to fund all films and TV production, then things will change very quickly. As with music, that model doesn’t seem sustainable if it becomes the dominant form of consumption. Musicians might, for now, challenge the major labels and get a fairer deal than 15% of a pittance, but it seems to me that the whole model is unsustainable as a means of supporting creative work of any kind. Not just music. The inevitable result would seem to be that the internet will suck the creative content out of the whole world until nothing is left. Writers, for example, can’t rely on making money from live performances – what are they supposed to do? Write ad copy?

(There much more.)

Ha haha. No one will listen. The very first comment after Byrne is from someone who shrugs at the complaints and figures that art is a hobby and that all artists should be happy to work for free.

Fuck this shit…

posted in:
Net buzz | talent buzz
  • RogerBW

    Yes, the scarcity-driven model predicated on copying being expensive is unsustainable when copying is cheap. We’ve known this for some years, and some of us have been trying to think about what might come next, rather than whining about the old models not being sustainable.

    Gresham’s Law applies, as always: bad money drives out good. To a typical consumer of generic entertainment product, low-quality free stuff is better than nominally-high-quality paid stuff. So they aren’t the people you try to appeal to. The thing I think most likely to work is a patronage model: a small number of people pay a relatively large amount of money in order to have the specific thing they want, which is later released free to everyone.

    If the movie/TV business has to rely exclusively on streaming fees I think this will be a great good thing: it will hasten the collapse of the Hollywood system of catering to drooling morons to maximise profit. Does Mr Byrne really think that worthwhile film can only be made with a studio setup flushing through millions of dollars?

  • Beowulf

    Hmmm. If there were enough cinemas willing to take the leap, I’d travel at least 50 miles to a larger town (State College is about 60,000 when you count the students–would we qualify?) to attend a film showing in an auditorium that has an Imax-style screen, incredible sound, luxurious seating, good food and drink available [no kids under the age of 12, please], no commercials, limited or no previews, and pay $25 a ticket.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    At $25 a ticket, I’d expect, nay demand, twice as many previews.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Well, that first commenter is just as wrong as David Byrne. (And note that they get pretty well demolished in the comments.)

    Byrne is wrong because he appears to be comparing the current arrangement with some utopian past that, as far as I’ve always heard, never actually existed. Has it not for decades been the complaint from recording artists that they make almost no money from the actual recordings? That the labels take such a large percentage that the artists pull in pennies on each single, each album, each radio play?

    Methinks Byrne, a tremendous artist but notoriously difficult person to work with, was annoyed with the deal his label cut with the streaming services. That or he just wants the damn kids off his lawn.

  • Paul

    The Grauniad had earlier carried a piece on a similar theme from Thom Yorke, which similarly attracted mostly negative comments (many of them just personal attacks on Thom Yorke). Which in itself probably provides a partial explanation for the problem that the two are on about.

    To many people, hunched in front of their computer after a 14-hour working day down t’mill, musicians have it easy. Thom Yorke was trying to point out that the majority of musicians have it far from easy: that he has been extraordinarily lucky, and he wants to try to use what he has gained from that luck in order to help the people who are enriching our culture while bumping along on minimal income. Predictably, commenters missed this point, and simply accused him of whining because he doesn’t make enough money from streaming (actually, of course, Radiohead famously offered an album for download-with-voluntary-payment, and still made a reasonable amount from it. I paid).

    I think David Byrne’s is covering similar ground, though not addressing the bulk of struggling musicians quite so explicitly. The point here, and I think MaryAnn will agree, is that the situation facing writers is very similar.

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